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Defense Bill Still Subject to Veto Pen

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

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“My belief is that we made changes that will address their concerns, and they’re looking at it,” Smith said. “But I don’t know.”

Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Monday that lawmakers “had numerous meetings with the administration,” including FBI Director Robert Mueller, and “we feel that we were able to satisfy, we hope, most of their concerns.”

The back-and-forth between the White House and Congress stands in stark contrast to last year, when the administration worked closely with Levin and others to pass the bill and a separate measure carved out of the authorization bill that repealed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay service members.

Human rights groups maintain their opposition to the measure, charging the conference report still allows for indefinite detention. Christopher Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union said “all the core dangers” remain in the bill.

“Based on suspicion alone, no place and no person is off-limits to military detention without charge or trial,” he said in a statement. “The House and Senate should vote ‘no’ when it comes to a floor vote this week. And President Obama should get his veto pen ready for this dangerous bill that could end up on his desk as soon as this weekend.”

The House and Senate conferees tamped down on the veto talk during their joint briefing Monday night and again to reporters on Tuesday. Levin, like McCain, said the conference report should address White House concerns. But if a veto is handed down, the Michigan Democrat said he was unsure whether Congress has the votes to override it.

Asked whether the Senate had enough votes to override a veto, McCain said, “You know, there may be.

“You’d have to ask the Democrats, because that’s who he would be calling on because certainly he wouldn’t get any Republican votes to sustain a veto,” he said.

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